12 Plastic-Free, Zero-Waste Holiday Decor Ideas We Love

Embrace nature and ditch plastic, tinsel, and fake snow these holidays.

November 28, 2017
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minimalist holiday decorating
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Decorating for the holidays shouldn’t be a massive chore involving stacks of plastic bins that need to be carted to and from the attic every December—and it doesn’t have to involve inordinate amounts of glitter, fake snow, and tinsel. Instead, decorate with timeless pieces that fit in with your style, store easily, and last for years. Keep it classy, not tacky!

(Brag your love of gardening with the Organic Life 2018 Wall Calendar, featuring gorgeous photographs, cooking tips and recipes, plus how to eat more—and waste less—of what's in season.)

The ideas below are plastic-free, don’t have unnecessary packaging, and in most cases, can even be recycled or composted instead of sent to the landfill come New Year’s. Use this as inspiration to start some new, waste-free holiday decorating traditions. 

 
 

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1
Make a home-strung garland

You can’t go wrong with a classic garland, and a minimalist version made from tree clippings, pinecones, and twine laid out on the mantel will do the trick. Foraged acorns or winter berries make colorful strands. As a general rule, avoid paint, glue, and glitter to keep things compostable. If you want a snowy look, a little bit of water and coarse sea salt works great to coat twigs or pine cones. The garland above, from Homey Oh My, is made with seeded eucalyptus, but you can make it out of just about any soft, thin branch. When the time comes, simply save the floral wire for your next project and compost the branches and cotton string. 

2
Craft a paired-down wreath

A fluffy, full wreath can be overwhelming in a minimalist space, not to mention tiresome to make. This foraged triangle wreath by Fall for DIY is made with stripped twigs, evergreen leaves, and florist wire. Alternatively, you could use an embroidery hoop or a small piece of wire to create a simple wreath worthy of a prime spot on the front door or wall.

Related: 10 Best Green Holiday Cards To Send This Year

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3
Or go with the full thing

Then again, sometimes you need a showstopper. Foraged evergreen branches make easy work out of creating a lush wreath that really captures the holiday spirit. Or skip the traditional evergreen route and craft your own living wreath with succulents instead. (And it will still look great in the spring if you can’t bear to part with it after the holidays are over.)

There’s no need for a full DIY, though, if you’re not in the spirit. Simply buy a wreath from a local florist, flower mart, or farmers’ market. Just don’t forget to request it be made and packaged without plastic when ordering.

See how to make your own foraged holiday wreath below:

 

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4
Gather a simple berry bouquet

Beautiful winter berries have all the color you need. A bright branch can change everything. Simply hang them in a bunch in lieu of a wreath or gather them in a jar or vase. Don’t have any berries growing in your backyard? Flower marts and farmers’ markets are also good sources. 

 

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5
Get a tree that folds flat

Reusable Christmas trees are wonderfully convenient, but they are traditionally weighed down with plastic fibers that are coated with toxic chemicals and fall off everywhere. Plus, they take up massive amounts of storage space to boot. Not so with these trees from CardboardChristmas on Etsy. They come in sizes from 6 inches to over 6 feet so you can decorate any space. Even better, they fold completely flat when not in use so you can store it behind the sofa or under the bed.

 
 
 

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6
Put your tree on the wall

Who says a tree had to take up space at all? Wall trees are the perfect solution for limited floor space, and they add a chic, minimalist look to any room. This simple DIY from Almost Makes Perfect looks like a traditional evergreen, but it’s actually made with rosemary. The directions say to hot glue the rosemary to small wooden boards, but you can go fully zero waste by tacking the branches straight to the wall or the wood slats. That way you’ll be able to reuse the wood next year and easily compost the greens. Plain dowels or balsa wood also make great reusable options to bring back year after year.

 

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7
Go with a living tree

Invest in the future with a living tree. Keep a dwarf variety happily potted for years (and bring it in every December) before giving it a forever home in your yard. Don’t have space for a new tree? Why not use a large houseplant or indoor tree? You can also decorate a tree outside with tasty treats for birds that can be enjoyed from your favorite room in the house.

Related: Why I Don’t Use Chemicals On My Christmas Tree Farm

 

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8
Choose a simple branch

Whether it’s a tiny clipping in a jar or 6-foot giant standing up like its green cousin, a bare branch can easily be transformed into an elegant, striking tree that’s sturdy enough for all of your favorite accoutrements. 

 
 
9
Make your own ornaments

The options feel endless when it comes to ornaments. Simple glass balls are always welcome, but if you have a little extra time or energy, handmade wool ornaments or quick paper ornaments are worth the effort. You can also make ornaments out of any shape with a simple baking soda and cornstarch dough, salt dough, or heavenly-smelling applesauce and cinnamon dough. Or skip the baking and just hang the cookie cutters straight on the tree.

Related: 3 Upcycled Holiday Gifts You Can Make From An Old Flannel Shirt

 

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10
Cook up some edible decor

Dried apples, citrus, and peppers all make pretty compostable garlands, ornaments, and decor. Popcorn or cranberries can be strung together to loop around the tree or liven up the walls, like in this tutorial from Reading My Tea Leaves. Whole winter fruit like oranges and pomegranates make a beautiful (and fast!) centerpiece. Simply add some seeded eucalyptus or winter berries and you have a lush table runner.

Related: 6 DIY Edible Holiday Ornaments

 

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11
Spell it out

Transform little sprigs of herbs or soft branches into sweet messages for all to read inside or out. Homey Oh My made this "Give Thanks" banner one by bending natural floral wire to form the letters and then securing myrtle leaves on with floral wire.

 
 
 

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12
Cherish your favorite decorations

Most importantly, the best, most sustainable decorations are the ones you already have. Embrace the family favorites and beloved childhood creations. They’re definitely worth the little bit of extra space.

Related: 20 Old-Fashioned Christmas Ornaments You Can Buy On Etsy